Azhure: After a long time…
Voice: It’s here!
Year 1416 in Manegia
In Loving Memory
Owen stood in front of his grandmother’s grave which was right beside her husband’s in the countryside. She had lived a full life, living to see him, her grandchild, and passed away peacefully in her sleep.
Others were attending her funeral: Owen’s childhood friend Alicia Bell with her mother and grandparents; middle-aged men and women who were butlers and maids in Alicia’s mansion; and her father, Ronald, who was a close friend to Owen’s father, Joshua.
And yet, it was his father who was the only person missing from this funeral.
Year 1410 in Manegia
“Hey, dad,” four-year-old Owen sitting on the sofa called to his father beside him while his eyes were still focused on the front.
Joshua, in a comfortable position on the sofa, looked down at his son – Owen knew this without looking since he was always aware his father was taller than other dads. “What is it, son?” he asked in concern.
As for why his father was concerned, Owen didn’t exactly call to his father in a tone a normal boy would use. Then again, a normal boy wouldn’t have only known his mother by visiting her grave before celebrating his birthday every year.
And probably because his father would have been terrible at doing housework, Owen’s grandmother, Matilda, decided to move into the apartment to help. Right now, she’s preparing lunch in the kitchen of this rather expensive family apartment – his father had said something about his friend, Ronald, giving him a fat paycheck to afford the apartment, the little boy doesn’t really understand it too well.
“Why does it hurt when I watch that?” So to explain, Owen pointed at the news on the television.
“…” His father blinked, slightly caught off guard by his son’s question. Looking at the television, he reminded himself that they were watching the news of someone convicted of a relatively petty crime yet was given a very harsh sentence, hence making it to the headlines.
“I know that person did something bad,” Owen continued softly. “But he gets punished too much for it. I don’t like it.”
“I see…” was all Joshua could say.
Owen was aware a kid at his age wouldn’t understand what was going on in the news, and even more so on his reaction to it. “He looks very sad,” Owen continued nonetheless as the television showed the excessively sentenced man weeping. “It makes me sad too and,” he patted his hand on his chest to point at it, “it feels bad in here.”
“…” Joshua pursed his lips. “So then?”
He was not done. “I feel like I’m also punished a bit like that person and I don’t know why,” Owen said. Then, he looked at his father. “Is that bad?”
Joshua pondered the difficult question as his son watched him with a crestfallen expression. Eventually, leaning forward, he answered, “No, Owen. It’s not bad at all,” while shaking his head. “It means you feel sad for others.”
“I feel sad for others…?” Owen muttered, looking confused.
“It means you feel sad for others when they’re in trouble,” the father explained. “Even if it’s because they did something bad, you still feel bad for them if they get punished too much for what they did.”
“…” The little boy listened quietly.
Joshua ruffled his son’s white hair, his tall height towering over his little boy. “You’re a good kid, Owen,” he smiled. “You already know how to care about others. It’s a good thing, keep at it.”
“…Okay, dad,” little Owen showed a little smile as his father let go.
It could’ve been a better explanation, but even if his father did convey one, there will always be something that’s lacking. So for now, this was for the best as the father and son continued to watch the television as the channel went on to the next program.
So this sad feeling for dad is because of me, Owen thought, however. Mom…
Year 1411 in Manegia
“Your daughter wants to apologize?” Joshua muttered dumbfoundedly.
Coming into the Ruze family apartment was Ronald Bell, Owen’s father’s friend, and gripping the dark-red haired man’s pants was Alicia, a little girl around Owen’s age with bright red hair and blue eyes, Owen’s friend introduced by their fathers, and she looked like she had cried not too long ago.
The Bells took a seat at one side of the sofa while the two Ruzes took the other side – both Owen and Alicia’s small statures allowed the four of them to occupy the same two-seater sofa. “Well, yes. To put it simply,” Ronald said, patting his daughter’s back. “Alicia here had been friends with a girl named Kathryn until she found out she was doing it for the money.”
Joshua stared at Kaomagi Earth’s richest man incredulously. “How is a little girl such a gold digger?”
“I have no idea how,” Ronald shook his head.
“Alright,” Joshua gave the benefit of the doubt. “But what does it have to do with Alicia apologizing to my son?”
“Um…” This time, Alicia spoke up. “When I was friends with… Kathryn, I… pushed Owen… away….” With every word she spoke, tears flowed from her eyes as her voice became heavier.
“…Ah, so it’s that,” Joshua sighed.
“She was quite distraught realizing it,” Ronald explained. “That’s why I brought her here.”
“…Yes,” Alicia uttered as she hung her head with her two hands balled into fists pushing down on her knees.
“Is that so, dear?” Matilda said, coming from the kitchen with a tray of snacks. Putting the tray on the low table, she gently patted the crying little girl. “There, there, it’s alright. Friendships may go, but they can always come again.”
“O-Okay, misses Ruze,” Alicia sobbed.
“That’s good, sweetie,” Matilda smiled. “Now, don’t you have something to say to Owen?”
“Oh yes!” Finally, Alicia turned to Owen, fidgeting her fingers with tears still flowing down her cheeks. “Owen, I, uh… am sorry for pushing you away…” Sniffing, she continued. “Please forgive me…”
They weren’t exactly the best wordings for an apology, granted this was from a six-year-old, but it was a sincere one. “…It’s okay, Alicia,” Owen, of course, accepted the apology.
And yet, throughout all of this, there was only one thing on his mind, I already knew that Kathryn is… I could have said something, then Alicia wouldn’t have to cry like that.
Year 1412 in Manegia
“Take this, grandpa!”
During free time in PE, a snotty brat by the name of Tony threw his fist at Owen.
It wasn’t the first time Tony picked on him. It all started back in first grade when the brat decided Owen’s an old man for having an otherwise natural white hair – Owen, of course, had asked his father, who also has white hair, about it to which he responded that the Ruzes were born with it. And so, the white-haired boy decided to give the bully-from-birth the cold shoulders – Owen had a weird feeling about that expression that’ll be reaped in the future -, as was his father’s advice while he does something about it, supposedly.
That became the routine throughout the first year: Tony would call Owen out in a rude fashion to the elderly, hoping to get a reaction out of him who would simply go on with his day, assuming the brat would eventually get bored of it. But as what was happening right now, the bully became frustrated that his piece of entertainment was not working as intended and decided to get physical.
“…Alicia?” Owen, unhurt, muttered.
Just as Owen was prepared to take a hit from Tony, he was greeted by Alicia suddenly right between them. Her right arm was lifted and bent to protect the right side of her face as Tony’s fist directly landed on her right shoulder.
With everyone watching in a shocked stupor, Alicia took the opportunity and spoke, “Stop that, Tony,” in a stern, condescending tone.
“Alicia…” Owen approached her in concern.
“I am okay, Owen,” Alicia shook her head before facing the little bully, not wasting the moment. “Why do you keep bothering him, huh, Tony!?”
And perhaps not wanting to be talked down by a girl, Tony put up a tough act and yelled, “And why do you care about the little grandpa!? He’s got white hair like an old man!” further disrespecting the elderly as well.
“And I have red hair like matches,” Alicia pointed out, crossing her arms. “You are calling me ‘fire girl’ now?”
“W-Wha!?” Tony stuttered. “I…”
“Owen is my friend, and I will not let anyone bother my friend!” Alicia declared, not just to Tony, but to everyone as well. “If you do, I will not be friends with you!”
By all means, Owen should have felt happy about it. And yet, hearing the last thing Alicia said, he could only feel this, If… because of me, Alicia couldn’t have other friends besides me, then…
Year 1413 in Manegia
“He’s… missing?” Matilda softly muttered with a gasp. Around her arms was eight-year-old Owen, having just visited his mother’s grave before subsequently celebrating his birthday a few days ago, wearing an expressionless mask as both grandmother and grandson stood in front of Ronald breaking the news right at their doorstep.
They knew Joshua hadn’t returned home after going out last night and he had never missed returning home outside of business trips. Matilda had tried to reach his cellphone but it was unreachable, making both of them more worried. Now, their worst fears turned out to be true when Ronald showed up the next morning telling them he disappeared.
Flinching at how Owen had seemingly taken the news, Ronald explained, “Yes, we had a chat together in the evening, and after we separated, I had forgotten to tell him something and when I tried to find him, he’s gone,” all while eyeing on Joshua’s son.
“…Is that so?” Matilda said confusingly, not understanding what the Bell conveyed.
Even Owen could tell there was something that doesn’t add up with mister Bell’s explanation. It was vague and sounded like a little kid coming up with a poor excuse to hide a vase the kid had just broken.
It didn’t help that Ronald leaned to his grandmother and whispered, “I need to explain it to you privately, misses Ruze. It has to do with ‘that,'” within Owen’s earshot afterwards.
Despite knowing he was being kept out of the loop, all Owen thought was, why did it happen?
Year 1416 in Manegia
Most had already left, as it was already late and will be a long ride home, but Owen wasn’t ready to leave. Alicia insisted on staying, but her mother convinced her otherwise with the agreement that her father stayed. Ronald was escorting his family back to their family car so Owen was all alone for the moment.
For the moment to think how he felt bad for that convict.
For the moment to think about how he could have told Alicia about Kathryn so she wouldn’t have to cry later.
For the moment to think about how he caused Alicia’s isolation.
For the moment to think of his grandmother in her final rest in front of him.
And finally, for the moment to think how his father was missing from all of this.
“It feels cold…” Owen uttered. It was a cold day, but not this cold. Winter was coming to an end, and snow didn’t fall on the graveyard today, yet the intense feeling on his skin said otherwise.
Owen didn’t know why, but two weeks ago, he had felt very cold. Even though he wore multiple layers of clothing and turned the heater on full blast, his skin was still freezing. In fact, when he tried that, he was sweating bullets, and yet he still felt cold.
It was as if time has stopped, or in this context, frozen for his skin to not escape from feeling the cold.
Frozen, huh? Owen thought. He then remembered his grandmother’s priceless reaction in his attempt to stay warm.
It was a comical scene, one Owen thought wouldn’t continue to an abrupt end that, it would’ve been nice…
…if it had all just stopped.
CREME~ CREME~ CREME~
Owen’s head snapped out of his deprecating thoughts upon hearing Ronald’s voice from behind. He would’ve turned his back if he didn’t realize from the sole of his feet, that blue crystals covered the ground and his grandparent’s tomb. However, upon closer look, they weren’t crystals.
They were ice.
“Mister Bell,” Owen then turned around with a widened eye. “What, is this?” he asked the adult as the ice had frozen the entire area around the young boy.
Ronald, however, simply sighed, as if he knew what was going on. “I suppose it was inevitable that this would happen,” he sadly muttered.
That was five years ago.
Azhure: I decided that a newly recruited Court Wizard would spontaneously give out an uncontrollable Vague Order if they were in an emotional state.
Voice: Like when Alicia beat up those bad guys!